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on 15 October 2016
I am writing this after having read approximately 60% of the text of the canonical books in Rahlfs’ edition of the Septuagint, comparing that text with the NETS translation. I think that this is a more-than-reasonable representative sample of the book and prefer to submit a review now, rather than possibly waiting a year or more until I have read 100% of the text. If subsequent reading reveals the need to revise my comments or grading, I will do so if possible.

People who have looked for “The New English Translation of the Septuagint” are likely to know that the Septuagint is the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, made by Jews in Alexandria approximately 250 years before the time of Christ. Readers who have a knowledge of New Testament (Koiné) Greek and have read some of the New Testament in Greek will find that large parts of the Septuagint are not difficult to understand, although it does also contain a lot of vocabulary that is not in the New Testament, and it is of course a much longer book.

In the 19th century, Launcelot C L Brenton translated the Septuagint into English, and his book is available on Amazon. However, for the modern reader it has two disadvantages:
a) the Greek text that he used was not as reliable as the text in Alfred Rahlfs’ Septuagint;
b) presumably influenced by the attitudes of the 19th century, Brenton translated the Septuagint into a style of English that imitated that of the early-17th-century Authorised (King James) Version of the Bible.

The NETS translation is therefore a substantial advance on Brenton’s text, though it must be pointed out that NETS’ text does not include the Greek; Brenton’s does.

The availability of NETS will encourage some readers with limited Greek to tackle the reading of the Greek text of the Septuagint, with NETS open beside it to help with difficult words or passages. For those with little or no Greek, it will give a good indication, within the limits mentioned below, of the content of the Septuagint. It is therefore recommended for both groups of potential readers. Albert Pietersma and his team of translators are to be congratulated on undertaking and completing this massive task.

There is a short general introduction to NETS, and each book has an introduction by its translator. These introductions contain a lot of interesting information. Some knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is needed to gain maximum benefit from these introductions, but those with only Greek will also be able to appreciate most of what is written in the introductions.

The text is also available, free of charge, in electronic format, at the upenn.edu website, here: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/ However, it would cost a lot more to print out one’s own copy (not to mention the time involved!) than to buy the printed version, which has a very reasonable (low!) price.

What are my misgivings?

1) The translator of the book of Joshua, Leonard J Greenspoon, writes in his introduction, “The easier accessibility of the Rahlfs version makes it prudent to give it precedence in NETS.” (p. 174) In my opinion, he is absolutely right. However, some translators have chosen to work from other editions of the text (principally, that of Joseph Ziegler, but also, for some books, texts from other editors). When the translation departs from the Rahlfs text, it is impossible to know whether this is a peculiarity introduced by the translator or whether the Greek text he or she is working from is different from Rahlfs.

2) For a reason that I find unjustifiable, NETS “bases” (?) its translation on the NRSV English translation. Surely, the text of NETS should be based on the Greek text, not on an English text that is in any case not a translation from the Greek but from the Hebrew Masoretic text.

3) I have the (first) 2007 edition and there are what appear to me to be hundreds of errors in the translation. As indicated above, this may in some (or even many) cases be due to the use of a Greek text that is different from the text edited by Rahlfs. However, the above website does list the corrections and emendations introduced with the second printing in 2009. Nevertheless, there appear to have been hundreds of further corrections, dated 2014 and also available on the same website, from which they can easily be downloaded.

4) Most of the translators have opted to stay as close as possible to the Greek text, even when this is tortuous or repetitive. I consider that this is the right approach, even though it is in conflict with the production of a text somehow “based” on the NRSV English text. Potential readers should be aware that the resultant text frequently does not flow well in English and is not suitable for reading aloud (for instance, in a church or synagogue service). I do not view this as a defect: the purpose of the translation is to show what the Greek text says, and how it says it. NETS is a translation for use in study, not for public reading; for that purpose, many excellent translations already exist.

5) The editors of the NETS text have tried to impose a certain degree of uniformity across the whole of the publication. However, it is clear that there are variations in the approach and the style of the individual translators (as, indeed, was the case with the original translators who produced the Greek text!). NETS has, however, managed to get most translators to render σκήνωμα [skēnōma, “tents”] as “coverts”, although some translators have insisted (rightly, in my opinion) on using the word “tents”. English is my mother tongue, but I occasionally came across words that I did not know (for instance, “purulent”, in Lev. 26:16 or “recurvation” in Deut 32:24), or words that I did know but did not consider the best-possible choice (e.g., “satiety” in Lev 26:5) or fake “old English” as in “of yore” for ἀρχῆς [archēs, “old” or “ancient”] in Deut. 33:15).

As indicated above, NETS is an improvement on Brenton and will help many people who wish to study the Greek text. However, I hope that it will soon be possible to produce a third printing, incorporating the further corrections on the website and, I hope, some others that are desirable.
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on 7 June 2010
I would like to give a non-technical review for those perhaps interested in the Septuagint for non-scholarly reasons.
The book itself is a beautiful hardback. The pages are very fine quality, with a silky smooth feel. The type is easy to read and look at.

The downside for me is that the book appears to be written for scholars or scholarly types. The introduction was hard to get through, as I found it to be a technical breakdown of the translation processes used and why.

The personal and places names have been retained from the Greek and are hard to pronounce sometimes and it's hard to remember who exactly it is. You sometimes find yourself stopping to think, and then saying "Oh, yeah that's Joseph" etc.

I also get the impression that the translation is a slightly liberal one, which I personally do not like. I do not like that the translator of Genesis chose divine wind over Holy Spirit in Genesis 1.

I would also like to see this edition of the Septuagint OT bound with the NRSV NT in a fairly economical edition.

Overall, I like this book as there is a sparsity on translations of the Septuagint; the Bible that Jesus (probably the Hebrew parent version and not the Masoretic which is another text family), the Apostles and the Early Church quoted from.

Update 20th September 2012: I also read the Early Church Fathers. Currently I am reading Justin Martyr's 2nd Apology, his dialogue with Tryhpo the Jew. Justin quotes a lot of the OT to this Jew, but what is interesting is he quotes almost exclusively from the LXX. There was one quote I just read the other day I couldn't put anywhere. It was quite an unusual reading, and it was in the context of a messianic passage. The version he read was far more messianic I believe than the versions we have today. Anyway, at one point he read Psalm 19 (it's Psalm 18 in the LXX), and as I read his version of it I thought I had never read it quite like that before. It seemed that this Psalm was messianic in nature too. But I had never heard any Bible scholar or apologist pull this one out. So I read it in my Orthodox Study Bible which also utilizes a version of the LXX, but that didn't seem messianic. So I read from my NETS translation, and lo and behold there it was! It reads just like Justin Martyrs version from 160AD. A few other texts that Justing read from were just the same; NETS was the closest and the most messianic in nature. I'll leave it up to you to buy a copy of the book and read it for yourself. I would also counsel you to buy the Ante Nicene Fathers: 10 Volumes (Early Church Fathers).

But there was one thing I noticed that bugged me again. The first line goes "The heavens are telling of divine glory". It is my understanding that even Hellenistic Jews would not have meant it to be understood this way. The heavens are telling of God's glory, I believe, is more faithful to the text and to the people of the text. Both Jews and Christians. One reviewer on the US site, said the reason the translators said "divine wind" in Genesis 1 was because there were Jews on the translation committee, but surely no Jew would reject "God's glory" over "divine glory" in this psalm? I stand by my original assertion that this is a liberal translation by liberal scholars. Still very useful though as has just been shown, and worthy or every interested layperson's library.
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on 23 June 2008
I was looking forward to this translation after reading Brenton's excellent version.
Plusses so far:
Format - excellent. Value for money, couldn't be better. Notes and explanations, generous and very useful. The one book I have read in its entirety so far is Esther - excellent, handles the lengthy parentheses very well, couldn't put it down. I have only dipped into some of the others
Genesis: "divine wind" instead of "Spirit of God" - somewhat puzzling, bearing in mind the context (I speak as a professional translator). (Some of the English in the NETS needs tidying up - with footnotes if there is a problem.)
Psalms: From the preface "To the reader of Psalms": "At not a few places, Ralfs enclosed within square brackets items of text, which, although they could not in his judgement justifiably be regarded as original nevertheless have widespread support in the textual traditions. Since in all these cases I agree with Ralfs' conclusion, I have excluded these items from NETS without comment." - OUCH! Example: Psalm 39(40) Verse 7(6) "Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but a body you have prepared for me" has been replaced by "Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but ears you have fashioned for me" from the MT I guess but without comment. So, the translator is inferring that the writer of Hebrews in the NT who quotes this verse from the LXX (as most other NT writers quote from the LXX) is also wrong??? I would expect an accademic version to contain the omitted text to enable the reader to judge for himself - as Ralfs did for the Greek text.
Worth getting? certainly, but IMHO it could be improved with a revision of some parts.
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on 11 June 2009
Translations into English of the full Old Testament (including, of course, its deuterocanonical writings) in Greek, long known as the Septuagint (LXX), have been rather few in number over the years. Thus, it is all the more suprising that two projects to translate the LXX have appeared in publication so rapidly one on the heels of the other. They are the New English Translation of the Septuagint (N.E.T.S.), on the one hand; on the other, there is the O.T. portion of the "Orthodox Study Bible" (O.S.B.), which its publisher, T. Nelson, for its part, issued only one year later (2008) and which encompasses both the Old Testament (O.T.) and the New Testament (N.T.). The O.T. of the O.S.B. denominates that translation's trademarked name as the "St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint" (S.A.A.S.). For most readers, these two new translations probably will have priority of interest over older translations of the LXX that have appeared in the 19th and 20th centuries, including that of Sir Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton (still available in reprint), which still has its advocates to a respectable degree (and rightly so), more of them among Anglican and Protestant scholars, however, than among the Eastern Orthodox.

The O.S.B. incorporates that own freshly completed new translation of its own of the Greek Septuagint O.T. (known, as already mentioned, as the "St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint" English Version, the S.A.A.S., for short), of which the translation project director is the estimable Jack Norman Sparks (who also is the principal editor of the O.S.B. as a whole), which can assure the Eastern Orthodox layman that the O.S.B. would opt for Eastern Orthodox preferences, regarding resort to preferred manuscript sources and concerning certain other matters as well. The full title of the N.E.T.S. version as the title page presents it may hint at some of these possibilities for divergence in exercise of scholarly judgment and preferences; in full, the publication's descriptive title is "A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under That Title" (N.E.T.S); however, the shorter form of the title constitutes the trademark's official wording. The scholarship embodied in the O.S.B. is entirely (or very largely) Eastern Orthodox, including that of many Orthodox converts from evangelical Protestantism; this is an asset, not a weakness, for the O.S.B.'s Orthodox men of learning circumspectly avoid what at times are some reckless turns of phrase that occasionally mar renderings of verses, sometimes disturbingly so, here and there in the N.E.T.S. By contrast with the O.S.B., two resolutely Protestant scholars, Allen Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright (but, compromising reliability, with the cooperation, along the way in their project, of some Jewish pedants among the other scholars who assisted them), edited the N.E.T.S. for Oxford University Press' 2007 publication (which bears the ISBN 978-0-19-528975-6). As the O.S.B. took the O.T. of the New King James Version (N.K.J.V.) as the literary point of departure, in editing and recasting the wording the N.K.J.V.'s O.T. text to comply with the LXX Greek O.T., the N.E.T.S. chose to rework the New Revised Standard Version (N.R.S.V.) of the O.T. to conform it to the Greek LXX O.T.

The results of the editors' work for the N.E.T.S. English translation of the Greek LXX O.T. are remarkably fine. The N.E.T.S. translation is crisply clear (apart from occasional passages that are inhabitually awkward-sounding in an otherwise elegantly worded rendition) and it is freer of the slight ambiguities here and there that one finds in even the S.A.A.S. English rendition of the LXX O.T., except when the N.E.T.S. addles things a bit in its own way! (It is worth using these two English translations in conjunction with each other!) The traces of "feminist-speak" (or "inclusive language") and of other flaws in the N.R.S.V.'s at times too trendy original translation seem, from what this reader can tell in having used the N.E.T.S. fairly intensively along with the O.S.B.'s S.A.A.S., to have disappeared entirely, so meticulously thorough has been the work of Pietersma and Wright in reworking and conforming the N.R.S.V.'s O.T. to the Greek LXX.

From this layman's point of view, the only real obstacle to ease in using the N.E.T.S. edition of the O.T. for daily reading is the N.E.T.S.' pedantic use of exactly transliterated forms of personal and place names, which differ (sometimes markedly) from the better-known forms of name in other English Bibles, which the O.S.B., for its part, wisely chose to retain as being more reader-friendly. Also, of course, having an O.T. in a volume, i.e. here the N.E.T.S., separate from the rest of the Bible (the N.T.) makes using the O.S.B. more convenient for daily use, in order for a reader to access, in a single volume, both the N.T. as well as the O.T.; this makes the O.S.B. (added to the O.S.B.'s avoidance of the sort of highly debatable renderings which occur at times in the N.E.T.S. that negatively and needlessly can affect doctrine) to be the principal choice for a practical edition of the Bible, in full (and, at that, according entirely to Greek texts), for constant use.

All hail to the successful completion of both of these translations and publishing projects, the "Orthodox Study Bible" and the N.E.T.S. English translation of the Greek Septuagint Old Testament! The O.S.B., for its part, makes the complete Greek Bible translated into English available for today's Anglophone readers, especially for the Orthodox faithful among them, as well as for other Christians, and the N.E.T.S., for its share of glory, provides, most of the time and despite some serious flaws, what is perhaps the most delightfully clear yet graciously worded English translation of the LXX Greek O.T. that has appeared to date!
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on 8 July 2013
This appears to be a very useful translation for anyone wishing to do in depth study and comparison with various translations of the bible.
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on 22 June 2016
Very interesting book a must for all ministers and bible students
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on 7 June 2016
great Book
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